To mention it may be of help in visualizing and understanding that direct and forceful epoch, and may even suggest some lenience in considering a Pope's carnal paternity. To those to whom the point of view of the Renaissance does not promptly suggest itself from this plain statement of fact, all unargued as we leave it, we recommend a perusal of Gianpietro de Crescenzi's Il Nobile Romano.
The marriage of Lucrezia Borgia to Giovanni Sforza tightened the relations between the Pope and Milan, as the Pope intended. Meanwhile, however, the crafty and mistrustful Lodovico, having no illusions as to the true values of his allies, and realizing them to be self seekers like himself, with interests that were fundamentally different from his own, perceived that they were likely only to adhere to him for just so long as it suited their own ends. He bethought him, therefore, of looking about him for other means by which to crush the power of Naples. France was casting longing eyes upon Italy, and it seemed to Lodovico that in France was a ready catspaw. Charles VIII, as the representative of the House of Anjou, had a certain meagre claim upon the throne of Naples; if he could be induced to ride south, lance on thigh, and press that claim there would be an end to the dominion of the House of Aragon, and so an end to Lodovico's fears of a Neapolitan interference with his own occupation of the throne of Milan.
To an ordinary schemer that should have been enough; but as a schemer Lodovico was wholly extraordinary. His plans grew in the maturing, and took in side issues, until he saw that Naples should be to Charles VIII as the cheese within the mouse trap. Let his advent into Italy to break the power of Naples be free and open; but, once within, he should find Milan and the northern allies between himself and his retreat, and Lodovico's should it be to bring him to his knees. Thus schemed Lodovico to shiver, first Naples and then France, before hurling the latter back across the Alps. A daring, bold, and yet simple plan of action. And what a power in Italy should not Lodovico derive from its success!
Forthwith he got secretly to work upon it, sending his invitation to Charles to come and make good his claim to Naples, offering the French troops free passage through his territory.1 And in the character of his invitation he played upon the nature of mal formed, ambitious Charles, whose brain was stuffed with romance and chivalric rhodomontades. The conquest of Naples was an easy affair, no more than a step in the glorious enterprise that awaited the French king, for from Naples he could cross to engage the Turk, and win back the Holy Sepulchre, thus becoming a second Charles the Great.
Thus Lodovico Maria the crafty, to dazzle Charles the romantic, and to take the bull of impending invasion by the very horns.
We have seen the failure of the appeal to Spain against the Pope made by the King of Naples. To that failure was now added the tightening of Rome's relations with Milan by the marriage between Lucrezia Borgia and Giovanni Sforza, and Ferrante rumours of a French invasion, with Naples for its objective being alreadyin the air realized that nothing remained him but to make another attempt to conciliate the Pope's Holiness. And this time he went about his negotiations in a manner better calculated to serve his ends, since his need was grown more urgent. He sent the Prince of Altamura again to Rome for the ostensible purpose of settling the vexatious matter of Cervetri and Anguillara and making alliance with the Holy Father, whilst behind Altamura was the Neapolitan army ready to move upon Rome should the envoy fail this time.
1 See Corio, Storia di Milano, and Lodovico's letter to Charles VIII, quoted therein, lib. vii.
But on the terms now put forward, Alexander was willing to negotiate, and so a peace was patched up between Naples and the Holy See, the conditions of which were that Orsini should retain the fiefs for his lifetime, but that they should revert to Holy Church on his death, and that he should pay the Church for the life lease of them the sum of 40,000 ducats, which already he had paid to Francesco Cibo; that the peace should be consolidated by the marriage of the Pope's bastard, Giuffredo, with Sancia of Aragon, the natural daughter of the Duke of Calabria, heir to the throne of Naples, and that she should bring the Principality of Squillace and the County of Coriate as her dowry.
The other condition demanded by Naples at the suggestion of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere was that the Pope should disgrace and dismiss his Vice-Chancellor, Ascanio Sforza, which would have shattered the pontifical relations with Milan. To this, however, the Pope would not agree, but he met Naples in the matter to the extent of consenting to overlook Cardinal della Rovere's defection and receive him back into favour.
On these terms the peace was at la&t concluded in August of 1493, and immediately afterwards there arrived in Rome the Sieur Peron de Basche, an envoy from the King of France charged with the mission to prevent any alliance between Rome and Naples.
The Frenchman was behind the fair. The Pope took the only course possible under the awkward circumstances, and refused to see the ambasssador. Thereupon the offended King of France held a grand council " in which were proposed and treated many things against the Pope and for the reform of the Church."
These royal outbursts of Christianity, these pious kingly frenzies to unseat an unworthy Pontiff and reform the Church, follow always, you will observe, upon the miscarriage of royal wishes.
In the Consistory of September 1493 the Pope created twelve new cardinals to strengthen the Sacred College in general and his own hand in particular.
Amongst these new creations were the Pope's son Cesare, and Alessandro Farnese, the brother of the beautiful Giulia. The grant of the red hat to the latter appears to have caused some scandal, for, owing to the Pope's relations with his sister, to which it was openly said that Farnese owed the purple, he received the by name of Cardinal della Gonella Cardinal of the Petticoat.
That was the first important step in the fortunes of the House of Farnese, which was to give dukes to Parma, and reach the throne of Spain (in the person of Isabella Farnese) before becoming extinct in 1758.